Publicis loses bid to evade opioid marketing lawsuit in Massachusetts

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BOSTON, Oct. 29 (Reuters) – A unit of French advertising firm Publicis Groupe SA (PUBP.PA) on Friday lost an offer to reject a lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts attorney general, claiming it had helped OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma LP fuel the opioid epidemic in the United States.

Publicis Health had called the trial of Attorney General Maura Healey an unprecedented attempt to sue an advertising agency for marketing its products by a manufacturer. He called her allegations conclusive and said she had misinterpreted the documents.

But Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Brian Davis said Healey had filed “non-speculative” claims under the Nuisance Act and the state’s Consumer Protection Act which could go ahead.

He pointed to allegations in Healey’s complaint, filed in May, which he said showed Publicis “played a critical role in developing marketing strategies” to boost opioid sales from 2010 to 2019. read more

Davis said these marketing campaigns were designed to get doctors “to use more OxyContin, to prescribe higher doses, and to prescribe it for longer periods of time for patients.”

Healey said she was delighted Davis “is rejecting Publicis’ attempt to shirk responsibility for its marketing campaigns.”

Publicis said in a statement that his work was “completely lawful” and that nothing he did was misleading. His attorney, David Anders of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz, argued that Purdue, not Publicis, dictates the content of its marketing.

“No advertiser has ever been held responsible in these circumstances,” he said.

More than 3,300 lawsuits have been filed by largely state and local governments seeking to hold drug companies accountable for an outbreak that the U.S. government says resulted in nearly 500,000 overdose deaths from 1999 to 2019.

A bankruptcy judge in August approved a settlement by Purdue and its wealthy Sackler family owners of claims against them that the company values ​​at more than $ 10 billion.

Consulting firm McKinsey & Co has separately agreed to pay $ 641 million to resolve claims from various states that it has helped Purdue and other drugmakers devise marketing plans and increase sales of painkillers .

Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Richard Chang


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